Interfaith Coalition Asks Candidates to Keep Religion Out of Politics

Gotta give religious groups credit where it’s due. An interfaith coalition has put out a statement asking political candidates to keep their faith out of politics:

There is a point… where an emphasis on religion in a political campaign becomes inappropriate and even unsettling in a religiously diverse society such as ours. Appealing to voters along religious lines is divisive. It is contrary to the American ideal of including all Americans in the political process, regardless of whether they are members of large and powerful religious groups, religious minorities, or subscribe to no faith tradition.

Voters should be encouraged to make their decisions based upon their assessment of the qualifications, integrity, and political positions of candidates. A candidate’s religious beliefs — or lack thereof — should never be used by voters, nor suggested by political candidates, as a test for public office or as a shorthand summary of a candidate’s qualifications.

Candidates for office bear the primary responsibility for setting the proper tone for elections. Anyone who legitimately aspires to public office must be prepared to set an example and to be a leader for all Americans, of all faiths or of no faith.

I don’t know if I agree with all of that. Voters should never use a candidates religious beliefs when weighing the decision of whether or not to vote for them? I think the way candidates espouse their religious beliefs gives me an insight into the way they think. It lets me know how they make decisions. It lets me know when I don’t want to vote for them. If they believe in certain religious lies, what other kinds of bullshit will they buy into?

President Obama may be a Christian but he never struck me as one who let the Bible override common sense, which is one reason I voted for him in 2008. Rick Santorum, on the other hand, seems incapable of making a decision without consulting his holy book first. That’s frightening.

Still, the joint statement is a good one. The candidates aren’t running to be the next pastor. They’re running to become president — for everyone. They, more than the voters, have a responsibility to keep their religious views separate from their public actions. If they let their faith guide them, their actions should still be grounded in secular values.

Side note: I’m wondering why there isn’t a single atheist or Humanist group signed onto this letter. Surely, some of them would’ve agreed to its principles, no?

(Thanks to Dan for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

    If someone repeatedly tells me how her religion/faith colors her every decision, that “God is in the mix” WRT  his decisions on any matters, spends so much time talking about religion it seems she’s running for Pastor in Chief rather than president, etc, then I I have every reason to consider that candidate’s religion when I vote.  

  • Anonymous

    It’s not just the holy book, Santorum apparently channels Pope Benedict whenever he makes a comment. I don’t think he represents the Catholic base either.  He’s against contraception, but most fertile Catholic women use it if they’re not trying to get pregnant.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

       Only on reproductive health!   Santorum apparently doesn’t believe in evolution, and human descent from primate ancestors was accepted by the Church long ago.  Pope Benedict made a fairly strong statement of concern about climate change last year at the Durban conference.  Santorum is a cafeteria Catholic, just like all the others, and I want to see a reporter ask him why he opposes the teachings of the Catholic church and the Holy Father..

  • Anonymous

    “The West Wing” to the rescue:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=ulk3hDwxnmg#t=239s

    I recommend the whole scene for a discussion about religion, skepticism, and the separation of church and state, but the latter part is particular about fake religious pandering in campaigns

     

  • I Temp Yellow

    I agree with what you said here: “I don’t know if I agree with all of that. Voters should never use a candidates [sic] religious beliefs when weighing the decision of whether or not to vote for them? I think the way candidates espouse their religious beliefs gives me an
    insight into the way they think. It lets me know how they make
    decisions.”

    However, I look at it a different way.  “Religion” and “beliefs” are two different things, and far too many people confuse the two.

    Religion is the group you belong to – it’s how you identify yourself, it’s your club or clan.

    Beliefs, on the other hand, are your philosophy and values, how you make judgements and decide how to live your life.  Every single religious person I know has their own set of beliefs, as unique as they are.  You cannot say “you are a Christian, and therefore don’t believe in birth control,” and likewise can’t say “you don’t believe in birth control, so you must be Christian.”

    Wording it as “religious beliefs” is to give religion a special place.  It’s to say that beliefs are somehow different when they are part of a religion.  Tell me: why is your belief in not using birth control considered more sacred, fundamental, and protected by law than my vegetarianism or belief in aliens simply because you tie it to your church?

    Coming back to what you said, I agree with the BJC on the one hand, that religion should never be used to judge a candidate, and with you (Hemant) on the other hand, that a candidate should absolutely be judged by their beliefs, because their beliefs give us insight into how they behave.

  • FSq

    Santorum, the craziest one the remaining Survivors, has said that god told him to run for President. I want to see one savvy reporter, in the limelight who will pinpoint him down and ask him, “Mr. Santorum, you have said that god told you to run for President….is this correct?”

    Wait for his namby-pamby response, and then I want the reporter to look him dead in the eye, microphone and cameraman on his face, and then follow up with, “and did she have anything else to tell you?”

    He would be in such a spot at that point. It would be the moment of the campaign for sure.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

     Saying that it would better if candidates kept religion out of politics is a good idea, BUT that’s asking the Republicans to give up the only thing they have that works for them, so don’t hold your breath waiting for it.

    The Republicans have no plan for the economy except to return to the same corporate ass kissing and carte blanche for Wall Street policies that got us into this mess in the first place. They want to raise taxes for the poor or leave them as they are,  and deeply cut taxes for the rich. Any American who is NOT a millionaire is voting against his financial interests if he votes for a Republican.

    So since there just aren’t enough millionaires in the US to vote Republicans into any office, they have to appeal to their “base,” fundamentalist Christians who are so obsessed with enforcing conformity in society according to their religion, that they’ll overlook the fact that they will be voting against their own financial interests.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

    Cuttlefish over at FreeThoughtBlogs noted the other day some OTHER glaring omissions in this group.  No Catholics.  No evangelicals.  In other words, nobody who’s actually INJECTING religion into the political debate is even a member of this “interfaith” coalition.

  • Ronlawhouston

    If you think about it, the typical way to put together a local interfaith group is to reach out to the other houses of worship.  Since there are no atheist temples they’re a bit more difficult to locate and engage.

  • Anonymous-Sam

    Santorum doesn’t just consult the Good Book; he has God on a two-way radio and the antenna has been surgically inserted through his frontal lobe.

    • http://www.lizheywoodwriter.com/ Liz Heywood

      Oooh–you mean Santorum HAS a frontal lobe?

      • Rrr

         I agree. Antenna probably in rectal lube.

      • Anonymous-Sam

         It’s there, just preempted by a 24-hour Fox News broadcast!

  • http://twitter.com/jfigdor Jonathan Figdor

    One of the failings of the interfaith movement is that it often fails to reach out to atheists, and only does so as an afterthought sometimes. As that movement grows up and matures, it will include atheists and agnostics more naturally.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    I think I’d rather know up front what delusions a candidate is operating under.   What if Sarah Palin had become VP and been involved in Middle  Eastern negotiations before we learned she believes that all the Jews will be returning to Israel?
      Personally, I’d vote for a Republican who respected science before I’d vote for a Democrat who was great on social and economic issues, but who believed God would not allow climate change.  Saving our species trumps saving any sector of the population.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

       As for the pledge, it  says “and be responsive to the full range of constituents, irrespective of their religion.”  If they had added “or absence  of religion,” maybe atheist groups would pay attention.

  • Colleenrosso

    Great article. As a Christian, I truly appreciate that you are a -friendly-atheist:) I agree with you.Too much emphasis on religion is inappropriate. However, I also like to know a candidates religious beliefs …..Catholic democrats usually have my vote:) Thanks again for the article


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X